Organic, the glamorous market

The organic trend is waking up the healthy instincts of consumers

Alimarket Mass Market

The popular trend for products grown with organic farming methods is already established in our neighbouring countries, but it is developing fast in the Spanish market, revolutionising consumer habits in our country, where there is ever more interest in growing these types of products, hitherto destined for export. Strong demand from abroad from highly educated consumers prompted the so-called “garden of Europe” to start growing organic food which, now established, has started conquering the home market, driven by two factors. Firstly, to satisfy a nascent demand from a minority group for which organic products are essential, and secondly, consumers motivated by the opportunity to eat a healthier diet in line with new expectations.

Spain is the top organic fruit and vegetable exporter, with more than two million hectares used to grow this type of product in 2016, according to data published by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fishing, Food and Environment (Mapama), showing an increase of 2.55% in land compared to the previous period. During the same year, according to the Ministry, organic products turned over more than €1.5 billion, growing by more than 20% and this figure is expected to increase to €12 billion by 2020.

The quest for a healthy diet, to recover forgotten flavours, food safety and pesticide-free food are all attributes highly prized among today’s consumers, according to a survey of more than 30 sector groups and companies conducted by Alimarket among our country’s fruit and vegetable products. The study also highlighted that Spanish consumers do not know what ‘organic produce’ is, and that the sector and distributors must educate the public to drive demand. It is more than a question of eating organic produce because it is trendy or fashionable. The collective consciousness is moving towards responsible consumption.

In any case, the growth in both domestic consumption and exports is encouraging the entry of organic produce and the growth in this type of companies such as Italian consortium Origine Group (the Sweeki Organic organic kiwi); El Ciruelo (organic grapes); Grupo GV El Zamorano and Sigfrido (an entire organic range); SAT Las Hortichuelas (which is launching along with SAT Ecopark-Níjar) and Anecoop itself (which is continuing to develop its company Solagora). In addition, Luis Andújar (expecting to focus entirely on organic products); Grupo Agroponiente (in the throes of establishing itself in the sector); Natural Tropic (which is expanding its organic farming activities every year); Coop. Frutos del Campo (with around 180 members); Coop. El Limonar de Santomera (a lemon specialist that also works with oranges, grapefruit and pomegranates); Única Group (with 350 members in Almería, Granada, Murcia and Alicante); Alpa Alimentos Frescos (part of the Uvesco distribution group), G’S group (its commitment to organic produce has run parallel to that of its pre-prepared food division) and Agrupación de Coop. Valle del Jerte (around 85% of whose production consists of Valle del Jerte cherries) are among the many who are working hard to build their organic produce divisions. Vegetales Línea Verde Navarra works in ready-to-eat fresh and prepared foods (with products by Italian firm Alce Nero), Vicente Pris (which has just added two references), Comfresh (with a range that includes baby bio carrots, gazpacho and two salads); Huerta Comporico (with five new references), and Haciendasbio (which has incorporated six estates into this division). And among those who are on the brink of incorporating organic products, we would mention Fruitinter (whose sights are set on Northern Europe and Scandinavia); Compagnie Frutiere España Corp. (that believes that as the price of organic produce stabilises, higher market penetration will be achieved); SAT Huerta de Peralta (its entire production of ready-to-eat fresh and prepared foods is expected to be sold to the Spanish market); and Frutas y Hortalizas Flores (which says that the future looks “bright”).

Many of them agree that growth in demand is crucial to the development of the sector which, in Spain, is already showing unstoppable growth, although the additional cost of organic produce is hampering, but not halting, progress.

In this regard, consumers opting for this type of products are young, working people, with average to high spending power, who are environmentally-aware and appreciate natural products. Consumers who are interested in more than the product itself, who embrace the organic/conservation dynamic and buy all products of this type they can afford. This is happening throughout Europe. In fact, Germany, Switzerland, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland, the Netherlands and, in general, all northern European countries are the main destinations for the organic products grown in our country, to the point that many companies are still sending all their organic products abroad.

When it comes to marketing, the share of organic produce purchased in mass consumer distribution retailers is growing slowly but surely. In addition to the organic, natural product chains, who were the first to sell this type of product in the Spanish market, their presence in the food distribution establishments is giving the sector the drive it needs to grow. This situation is even clearer if we take into account the first big investments made by food chains in organic products: ‘The Biosphere’ by El Corte Inglés; ‘Spar Natural’, the first organic supermarket under the Spar umbrella, this time with its Canary Island associate Supermercados Mogán; and separate Bio areas in ‘Carrefour Market’ premises.